What Does Natural Mean?

Some thoughts regarding use of the word "natural" on your glorious handcrafted products.

I now spend most of my time writing and teaching, but for years, I regularly made all sort of handcrafted items, including soaps, lotions, creams, body oils, balms, etc. Use of the word "natural" means very little today when it comes to manufacturing. It's no better than "lite" and "low fat," both of which are slapped on labels only because the product makers know we are conditioned to buy it. I suppose there may have been a time (before I started making these goodies) when the word, "natural" had some significance, but those days are long since gone.

I suggest attempting to market your wonderful and luscious handcrafted treats as just that, and avoid the use of the word "natural." I found that 9 times out of 10, unless I mentioned the word, the customers didn't either. After all, haven't you found that when customers ask whether something is "natural," what they really have in mind is something more specific than that? So, if they asked that question, I asked them what they meant. Some don't want animal products, so to them, anything that contained them was not "natural." But of course, we all know that there are few things more natural than animals. I never argued with them, but rather directed them to products that did not contain animal products. Some don't want fragrance oils even if they are derived entirely from natural substances. To those people, no matter what you tell them, a fragrance oil can never be natural. So I directed them to products containing no fragrance oils. To some, the wonderful absolutes extracted from rose and jasmine petals are not natural since a solvent is used to extract the absolute. So, they didn't buy the products containing the absolutes.

Let's look at essential oils. (This will be greatly over-simplified for brevity.) While they are "naturally occurring," they undergo significant alterations during the distillation process, which literally changes the structure from what it was in the plant, and also adds matter to the finished product that was not present in the plant material in its natural state. This is not bad, but I suppose someone could say that it wasn't natural. I only include this information here because it is illustrative of the various different meanings the term "natural" can have.

As I said, I do not use the word. I prefer to tell people what is in the product if they ask me questions. If there's lye, I explain that it is no longer present in the finished soap due to the curing time. I also explain that without it, the "soap" would be a mushy mess. If they ask about emulsifying wax, if their main concern is the animal products, they seem more than happy to use the vegetable wax. In fact, several steadfast vegans and vegetarians have taken my cream workshop and happily dumped the vegetable wax into their product because it encourages the proper creamy texture. When I had a shop, if they didn't want the "manufactured wax," we could use the beeswax, but that was taken from the hive using what some consider to be inhumane practices. So, we were either back to the emulsifying wax or they would just have to rub pure vegetable oil all over their face and none of them were willing to do that. I also found it useful to have creams made with and without emulsifying wax. When compared, most customers wanted the cream with the emulsifying wax.

We have to educate people about these wonderful goodies that we make. If the word, "natural" is used on a very big company's product and I want to distinguish mine from theirs, the very last thing I want to do is use the same word the company does. This doesn't distinguish me at all.

In the end, use of the word "natural" means something different to every person. For this reason, consider not using it. Use all of the other words and phrases that distinguish our pampering treats:

  • Handcrafted in small batches

  • Place "use by" dates on the labels -- this indicates to consumers that you care so much about their enjoyment of your product that you've tested it and know just how long they can use it and obtain the best results

  • Tell your customers that your items do not contain tons of unnecessary preservatives; because they are so special, edcuate your customers about how to properly care for them. They can't treat them like they treat the national brands. Don't store your lotion in the bathroom where steam will degrade the texture. Don't leave it in the trunk of the car at the beach. "Take care of it and it will take care of you--like nothing you've ever used before."

  • Let them know that your lotion might separate, and tell them that there is nothing wrong with that...in fact, it demonstrates that only what is NEEDED to moisturize is in the product, not a ton of products that big companies use to "make pretty". Tell them to shake it and keep it in the refrigerator during extended periods of non-use. This takes some extra effort, and no doubt, there is a hurdle to overcome with today's consuming public, but my experiences have convinced me that it is well worth the effort.

As they are educated, your customers will grow to appreciate the care and loving energy that is infused into your products. What could be more "natural" than that?

Copyright 1998 Donna Maria

Horizontal Bar

Search The Toiletries Library powered by FreeFind

What's new

This page is edited and maintained by Linda Coffin

Email me

© 1998- Linda Coffin


Horizontal Bar